The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

More Than Moon Rocks, NASA Collects Airline, Passenger Data

by Christopher Getzan

Jan. 25, 2004 – Moonshots and Mars missions are not the only things NASA gets to do for the Bush Administration. Wired magazine is reporting NASA scientists are building an "anti-terror" database from "reports of sick passengers, bad weather and sleepy pilots."

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How exactly the database, called Data Mining and Aviation Security, is supposed to function or what it is supposed to reveal about the likelihood a passenger will commit a terrorist acts is unclear.

Wired, which describes the $1 million project as a "passenger-screening system," reports it relies on two other databases the agency has been developing in the name of homeland security, the Aviation Safety Reporting System and the Aviation Data Integration System. They include information from black-box in flight recorders, notes from air-traffic controllers and weather reports.

According to NASA, the purpose of the data mining project is "to develop a fast and reliable method to mine data from multiple sources to assess the probability of safety and security issues in the national airspace." Wired reports that the database will include records of flight anomalies ranging from turbulence and sick passengers to the proximity of sky divers and bird collisions.

Wired reports that civil libertarians say the program is a waste of resources and may endanger personal privacy. A privacy expert interviewed by Wired says the database will be based around "behavioral profiling."

Since 9/11, passenger lists employed by the government and the airlines have netted more peaceniks or otherwise innocent foreigners than al-Qaeda operatives. In one case, two San Francisco anti-war activists discovered they appeared on a regional no-fly list when they attempted to fly out of the city in August 2002. The pair, editors of a small Bay-area magazine, were detained by police but soon released.

The Toronto Sun is also reporting the current "master list" the United States uses for identifying terrorism "suspects" spans the globe and is 5 million names long. The Sun did not report the criteria for making the list.

In addition, Homeland Security head Tom Ridge recently announced a fingerprint-and-photo policy for all foreigners entering the country on a visa, regardless of their country of origin or ethnic background.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.


Christopher Getzan is a contributing journalist.

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